Should I clean filters with compressed air?

Cleaning dust extractor and vacuum cleaner filters is a messy job, and most of us at some point or another have grabbed the compressed air nozzle and given the filter a really good clean.

The filter looks like new, but did you know that cleaning filters with compressed air will most likely result in damage to the filter media?

Filters are made up of a delicate filter media, and when compressed air pushes on the particles lodged in the filter media, damage to the filter media inevitably occurs. This then allows larger and more abrasive particles to pass through the filter and travel on to the motor, causing damage and wear as they pass through, and significantly reducing the life of the dust extractor.

Because this is not something that happens straight away, many contractors don’t see the connection between incorrect filter cleaning methods and reduced dust extractor motor life. The following guidelines will help you can greatly increase the life of your dust extractor and filters.


The first step in any process is to gently tap the filter against a hard surface to loosen the accumulated dust. Take care not to damage the element. If your filter is washable, use a garden hose without a nozzle.

  1. Direct the water to the clean side of the filter first, running the water up and down the filter pleats. Do not bring the nozzle in contact with the filter media at any time.
  2. Repeat this process on the dirty side of the filter. Use cool to lukewarm water.
  3. Do not use soap! Air-dry for 24-48 hours or until completely dry before you replace it in the vacuum.
  4. Filters that are closed on one end can be cleaned by soaking.
  5. The filter should be placed open end up in a suitable tank filled with warm water (37-60 °C or 100-140 °F) and any commercial non-sudsing detergent.
  6. Allow to soak for 15-30 minutes, agitate the filter in the solution with a gentle swaying/rotating motion, and allow to soak an additional 10 minutes.
  7. Rinse the filter with clean water from the clean side until the water runs clear. Do not fully immerse the filter in the cleaning solution. Care must be taken to avoid contact of the clean side of the filter with the contaminated wash water in the tank. The cleaning solution should not be reused.

To vacuum a filter clean use a standard shop-vacuum or central vacuum supply.

  1. Move the vacuum nozzle slowly up and down the pleats on the dirty side of the filter only.
  2. Do not bring the nozzle in contact with the filter media at any time. A small brush type nozzle can be used.
  3. Floorex does not recommend using compressed air to clean filters under any circumstances.
  4. To ensure no damage is done to the filter media the pressure of the compressed air would have to be so low it would be ineffective at cleaning.


  • Scrape the contaminant from the surface of the media.
  • Allow dust from the dirty side of the filter to attach to the clean side of the filter during any of these processes.
  • Allow dust to enter the filter box while the filter is removed.
  • Disassemble the element to clean.

After cleaning in a well-lighted area, inspect the gasket for continuous adhesion and the absence of tears and cracks. In a darkened room, inspect the filter by placing a shining a torch inside the filter.

Visually inspect for weak spots or holes in the media identified by bright pin-holes of light. If defects are detected, discard the filter.

After cleaning and inspecting, permanently mark the filter with the cleaning method, the number of cleans and the date.

All sound too hard? Check out our self-cleaning dust collectors here

FINAL NOTE: When a reverse pulse type dust extractor is functioning properly you don’t need to take the filter out to clean it.

For machines with no compressor on board – Simply block the inlet, start the dust extractor and pulse clean the filter.

See the video below for more detail.

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